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WHO WAS THE APRIL FOOL?

On April Fools' Day, spoof stories are cunningly hidden among genuine news items in newspapers the world over. So when we read a report headed Boy sticks out tongue, is suspended in the April 1 issue of the El Paso Times we suspected, not unreasonably, that it was a hoax.

"Sal Santana II, a 12-year-old Magoffin Middle School student, said he stuck his tongue out at a girl who declined his invitation to be his girlfriend," David Crowther reported. "School district administrators viewed the incident as sexual harassment, suspended him for three days and are considering placing him in an alternative school."

The boy's mother, Silvia Santana, said: "This is crazy. It's a shame that a guy trying to be cute with a girl can get himself into this much trouble. I don't think he even knows what sexual harassment is."

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El Paso is a sunbaked city in Southwest Texas, adjoining New Mexico and Mexico. The City of El Paso (estimated population  563,662) is the fifth largest in Texas. On the other side of the Rio Grande  is Mexico's fifth largest city, Juarez (population 1,217,818).

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She and her husband, Salvador Santana, were to meet the district's director of student services, Gloria Boyer, who had authority to set aside the planned disciplinary measures in Sal's case. Salvador Santana said they would appeal to the school board if necessary and would probably sue the district regardless of what happened.

"It's got to be done because God knows how many other kids have been involved in something like this," Santana said, adding that his son has had no disciplinary problems in school this year.

The report quoted El Paso school district spokesman Luis Villalobos as having said: "This is a real sensitive issue, but nonetheless one that is covered in the student handbook, which we enforce. He's facing the discipline measure that's appropriate for the offense."

Well, who could be blamed for suspecting that the story was an April Fools' Day fabrication? To find out if Salvador Santana really existed, we googled his name, and discovered not only that he's for real, but that he's CEO of El Paso Actualization Company, and a man not afraid to  speak his mind. El Paso Inc., the city's business paper, said that Santana, speaking about his experience dealing with the El Paso Empowerment Zone and the city's Economic Development Office, had remarked: "I'd have done better if I'd stabbed the Mayor's dog."

So it seems Crowther's April 1 story was no joke.  People will be chuckling over it for  years. It has already appeared on a dozen "humour" websites, and seems certain to proliferate, in the way such bizarre anecdotes often do.

ALL-TIME BEST APRIL FOOLS' HOAX

On April 1, 1957, the British Broadcasting Corporation's Panorama program reported on a bumper spaghetti harvest in southern Switzerland. TV viewers saw Richard Dimbleby walking among trees growing spaghetti, while workers pulled the pasta off the trees and put it into baskets. When viewers called to ask how they could grow spaghetti plants, the BBC replied "Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best."  It was a classic April Fool hoax. For a full account, click on Spaghetti Harvest.

 
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Copyright 2003

Eric Shackle

Story first posted May 2003

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